Lead­ers ar­gue over new ‘cen­tre ground’


Sunday Sun - - Comment&analysis -

PEO­PLE have lost faith in free mar­kets, ac­cord­ing to Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn.

They’ve had enough of a sys­tem which helps the rich get even richer but does noth­ing for the rest of us.

And that’s why peo­ple want gov­ern­ment to step in and play a more ac­tive role in shap­ing so­ci­ety.

In fact, the idea that gov­ern­ment should in­ter­vene, which has been un­fash­ion­able for so long, is now the new cen­tre ground.

This was the ar­gu­ment in Mr Cor­byn’s speech to the Labour con­fer­ence last week. But it wasn’t new.

Be­cause Con­ser­va­tive leader Theresa May said some­thing sim­i­lar in her speech to the Tory con­fer­ence in 2016.

Mr Cor­byn told his con­fer­ence that Bri­tain has an econ­omy “de­liv­er­ing prof­its for a few, and debt for the many”. He warned: “Our econ­omy no longer de­liv­ers se­cure hous­ing, se­cure well­paid jobs or ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards.”

Theresa May last year said peo­ple be­lieve “that the world works well for a priv­i­leged few, but not for them”.

She added: “Our econ­omy should work for ev­ery­one, but if your pay has stag­nated for sev­eral years in a row and fixed items of spend­ing keep go­ing up, it doesn’t feel like it’s work­ing for you.”

Mr Cor­byn said the an­swer was for gov­ern­ment to do more.

He told his con­fer­ence: “Now is the time that gov­ern­ment took a more ac­tive role in re­struc­tur­ing our econ­omy.”

And he called for “a new and dy­namic role for the pub­lic sec­tor, par­tic­u­larly where the pri­vate sec­tor has ev­i­dently failed.”

Theresa May had the same idea.

She promised “a plan that will mean gov­ern­ment step­ping up. Right­ing wrongs. Chal­leng­ing vested in­ter­ests”. And she told her au­di­ence: “We should em­ploy the power of gov­ern­ment for the good of the peo­ple.”

Mr Cor­byn claimed that his ideas were now the “cen­tre ground”.

He said: “A new con­sen­sus is emerg­ing from the great eco­nomic crash and the years of aus­ter­ity.”

Mrs May said it was time “to em­brace a new cen­tre ground in which gov­ern­ment steps up – and not back – to act on be­half of us all.”

The poli­cies may be dif­fer­ent, but the two lead­ers share a be­lief that vot­ers won’t put up with grow­ing in­equal­ity, and ex­pect gov­ern­ment to do some­thing about it.

They may be right. The next ques­tion, then, is who has a plan to turn their words into ac­tion?

So far, the an­swer ap­pears to be Mr Cor­byn. Theresa May’s task when the Tories hold their an­nual con­fer­ence in Manch­ester this week is to con­vince us oth­er­wise.

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